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Counter Culture’s Chicago training center

The North Carolina–based company infiltrated Chicago not with a café, but with education.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

Coffee company Counter Culture staked its claim in Chicago four months ago. But unlike La Colombe and the forthcoming Stumptown, the Durham, North Carolina-based company declined to open a coffee shop. Instead, it transformed a West Loop loft into a light-filled training center (177 N Ada St, unit 106, 919-264-1872), a place where baristas�even those who work at shops that are technically Counter Culture�s competition (read: Intelligentsia)�can learn a new technique, listen to a lecture or play with the latest generation of espresso machine. �We�re not fighting against each other,� says Rich Futrell, Counter Culture�s Chicago rep. �We�re fighting against bad coffee.� That quest is not limited to the industry; the general public is invited into the space for events and lectures, including the weekly coffee cuppings, which occur every Friday at 10am. Here�s what you might find in the space.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

2The La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. �Super hot,� is how Futrell describes it. The reason is because the machine allows baristas total control over the pressure used to extract a shot of espresso. Varying the pressure changes the body and flavor of the shot, so a single roast can be made in an infinite number of ways.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

3Vac pots, or siphons (shown here with CC technician Josh Dugue), are �the most theatrical brew method,� says Futrell. �And also the most fickle.�

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

4 Each roast Counter Culture puts out gets its own label, a symbol of its unique qualities. But all CC roasts are �Counter Culture Direct Trade Certified.� Including its name is not redundant: There are no standards for direct trade, so Counter Culture wrote some itself. Unlike other companies that use the term direct trade, Counter Culture places a high value on transparency: A yearly report of what it pays its producers is available on its website, counterculturecoffee.com.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

There is perhaps no better space in Chicago to debate the merits of pour-over coffee than Counter Culture�s center, as it has the tools to execute multiple types of pour over, as well as pour-over alternatives. This Bonmac dripper is a preferred tool (Counter Culture worked with Bonmac to devise the dripper), as is the Chemex pour-over system.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

Counter Culture

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
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Photograph: Erica Gannett

1 There is perhaps no better space in Chicago to debate the merits of pour-over coffee than Counter Culture�s center, as it has the tools to execute multiple types of pour over, as well as pour-over alternatives. This Bonmac dripper is a preferred tool (Counter Culture worked with Bonmac to devise the dripper), as is the Chemex pour-over system.

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